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Be A Better Writer--ANTAGONISTS

These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.

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Re: Be A Better Writer--ANTAGONISTS

Postby glorybee » Tue Jan 21, 2014 4:03 pm

swfdoc1 wrote:I’m really interested in your theory.

By the way, this is the story I was referring to when I mentioned that BOTH antagonist and protagonist were “dark.”


That was my theory. Glad I was right!
Jan Ackerson

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Re: Be A Better Writer--ANTAGONISTS

Postby Cinnamon Bear » Tue Jan 21, 2014 9:59 pm

I just wanted to jump in and say that I love all three of Jan's entries posted here. But I wanted to comment in particular on "Hope With Wings".

In the seven years since Jan submitted this entry the situation has only gotten worse. Advances in prenatal genetic testing and in reproductive technologies are making it easier and easier to detect "undesirable" genes in the unborn. Even more important---many people are happy to use these technologies to "delete" the "undesirables".

Eugenics is truly an antagonist who looms larger than ever.

The Bear

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Re: Be A Better Writer--ANTAGONISTS

Postby RachelM » Wed Jan 22, 2014 4:19 pm

I'm so thankful for this lesson, Jan!

In the first novel that I wrote, it's very clear who my antagonist is, but she was originally very evil and "flat." I took a writing workshop that taught me to ask a lot of questions about my antagonist to make them well-rounded. I was surprised to find out that my protagonist and antagonist really wanted the same thing--love--but they were going about it in very different ways.

I've been worried that the novel that I'm writing now doesn't have an antagonist, because I thought that the antagonist had to be a person. Thank you for clearing that up for me! In this novel that antagonist would be the "system."

I'm going to look through some of my challenge entries and look for the antagonist. I think it is often "self."
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Re: Be A Better Writer--ANTAGONISTS

Postby glorybee » Wed Jan 22, 2014 6:24 pm

Rachel, that was true of my challenge entries, too. Being a moody, introspective person myself, that's the kind of characters I tended to write. I also wrote an awful lot of stories in which the main character wasn't typically a "good guy," so he or she was sort of an antagonist/protagonist. To be sure, it's not necessary to have clear "good guy versus bad guy" dynamics going on; it's far more interesting if both the antagonist and the protagonist are written in shades of gray.
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Re: Be A Better Writer--ANTAGONISTS

Postby CatLin » Thu Jan 23, 2014 11:41 pm

You chose some interesting examples for us to ponder... and of the books I've read, I found my first instinct going with a non-physical antagonist. Here are some of my thoughts...

To Kill a Mockingbird…
Racism

the Harry Potter Series…
Valdemort by name, but essentially.. evil

the Little House on the Prairie series…
The Elements/Nature, but underlying that is Pa's restless spirit - his unquenchable desire to go and conquer something new.

Gone With the Wind…
My first thought was "war", but underlying that are Change? Progress?

The Scarlet Letter…
Legalism, or what ever the opposite of forgiving grace is....


The antagonists in the two links you shared generated opposite emotional reactions in me. I absolutely hated the first...until that last, awesome, redeeming mini-scene. The second I wanted to grab up and love on, but I don't have the patience of your foster-mom MC.

As I think back over my challenge entries, I realize I may have very few with a clear-cut antagonist. Obviously, this is a weak point for me - thanks for making me see it!

This story was my first EC, and it remains my husband's favorite.
http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=21587
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"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes." Psalm 18:24 (The Message)

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Re: Be A Better Writer--ANTAGONISTS

Postby glorybee » Thu Jan 23, 2014 11:50 pm

CatLin wrote:You chose some interesting examples for us to ponder... and of the books I've read, I found my first instinct going with a non-physical antagonist. Here are some of my thoughts...

To Kill a Mockingbird…
Racism

the Harry Potter Series…
Valdemort by name, but essentially.. evil

the Little House on the Prairie series…
The Elements/Nature, but underlying that is Pa's restless spirit - his unquenchable desire to go and conquer something new.

Gone With the Wind…
My first thought was "war", but underlying that are Change? Progress?

The Scarlet Letter…
Legalism, or what ever the opposite of forgiving grace is....


The antagonists in the two links you shared generated opposite emotional reactions in me. I absolutely hated the first...until that last, awesome, redeeming mini-scene. The second I wanted to grab up and love on, but I don't have the patience of your foster-mom MC.

As I think back over my challenge entries, I realize I may have very few with a clear-cut antagonist. Obviously, this is a weak point for me - thanks for making me see it!

This story was my first EC, and it remains my husband's favorite.
http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=21587


Interesting, Cat, and that brings up another point--in a novel, you're going to have more than one antagonist. Certainly your main character will always have emotions and decisions and consequences, and there will be those big picture things like "racism" and the like. I love that you pointed those out. Often they are embodied by a specific person or people, and I'll mention a few of those here"

To Kill a Mockingbird--Bob Ewell and Mayella, the all-white jury
The Harry Potter Series--in addition to Voldemort, Malfoy and the Dursley family (among others)
The Little House series--Nellie Oleson, Mrs. Oleson
Gone With the Wind--Scarlett O'Hara herself. She may be the main character, but she has few redeeming characteristics. She'd say that Rhett Butler was the antagonist, or maybe Melanie Wilkes. Or all northerners.
The Scarlet Letter--Roger Chillingworth

I'll respond to your story in another post, as I already have too many tabs open.
Jan Ackerson

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Re: Be A Better Writer--ANTAGONISTS

Postby glorybee » Thu Jan 23, 2014 11:55 pm

CatLin wrote:As I think back over my challenge entries, I realize I may have very few with a clear-cut antagonist. Obviously, this is a weak point for me - thanks for making me see it!

This story was my first EC, and it remains my husband's favorite.
http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=21587


Cat, I love this story! It reminds me very much of one of the best television shows ever, Friday Night Lights--and I don't even like football!

I think your story and many of mine have this in common; the main character is really a sympathetic antagonist, and the role of the antagonist in the story is played by someone who'e really a "good guy" (although the main character has reason not to feel that way).

I like that kind of character; they're fun to write and interesting to read.
Jan Ackerson

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Re: Be A Better Writer--ANTAGONISTS

Postby gracelikerain » Fri Jan 24, 2014 5:32 pm

Thanks for the lessons, Jan. I always learn something!

Everyone loves a well-written antagonist and all those that you cited are classics for a reason.

I've noticed in going back through my challenge pieces that I, like Cat, don't often have a physical antagonist. I don't like to write "bad guys", but I think that is definitely something I need to practice more. I'm working on a novel right now and I think there are several internal conflicts, but there is an ex-wife that I want to make sure is not a cliched, trite, nasty ex-wife type, but has some nuance. I'm interested to see if I can write that kind of character, because it's a bit of a stretch for me.

I had a hard time finding even one of my pieces with a real antagonist. Maybe a naughty dog counts? This is one of my favorite pieces (and now that I see that it was my last challenge piece, I realize I really need to get back into writing them again!)
The Daisy Chain
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Re: Be A Better Writer--ANTAGONISTS

Postby glorybee » Sat Jan 25, 2014 11:06 am

gracelikerain wrote:I've noticed in going back through my challenge pieces that I, like Cat, don't often have a physical antagonist. I don't like to write "bad guys", but I think that is definitely something I need to practice more. I'm working on a novel right now and I think there are several internal conflicts, but there is an ex-wife that I want to make sure is not a cliched, trite, nasty ex-wife type, but has some nuance. I'm interested to see if I can write that kind of character, because it's a bit of a stretch for me.

I had a hard time finding even one of my pieces with a real antagonist. Maybe a naughty dog counts? This is one of my favorite pieces (and now that I see that it was my last challenge piece, I realize I really need to get back into writing them again!)
The Daisy Chain


I definitely feel that the conflict in this sweet story is "Person vs. self," so that the antagonist here is Agatha herself (her loneliness, depression, etc.). Daisy isn't really an antagonist--she's more like a tool for making your two characters meet.

I'd encourage you to work on writing realistic, well-rounded antagonists, especially if you're working on a novel. It's fine for very short stories like those in the writing challenge to lack an antagonist, but when you're populating a novel, there really should be characters who work against the goals of your main character.

And yes--you definitely need to enter the challenge again!
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Re: Be A Better Writer--ANTAGONISTS

Postby Cinnamon Bear » Sat Jan 25, 2014 1:05 pm

Oh, I love "The Daisy Chain"! And it certainly deserved to win.

I agree with Jan that the antagonist was Agatha's loneliness and depression.

An additional antagonist is our society which makes it difficult for older people to meet each other. With Daisy's help Agatha and Phillip overcame this antagonist.

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Re: Be A Better Writer--ANTAGONISTS

Postby gracelikerain » Wed Jan 29, 2014 9:24 am

Yes, you're right-on all accounts! I love reading well-rounded characters, but I've realized that good writers make it look easy and it's not!
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Re: Be A Better Writer--ANTAGONISTS

Postby JayDavidKing » Thu Jan 30, 2014 3:10 am

I'm late responding but...
So many of the entry examples that have been given are truly wonderful. I hope it's okay but I didn't use one of my challenge entries for this lesson. I picked one of my general entry stories for a reason. I want to know, Jan, who the real antagonist is in this one. It is either jealousy, the main character, or maybe even the innocent room mate who may have known all along what was happening. I would love it if all three were antagonists and there were no good guys at all... except for the poor guy at the end.

The story is "The Way to a Man's Heartburn". http://www.faithwriters.com/article-det ... p?id=78440

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Re: Be A Better Writer--ANTAGONISTS

Postby glorybee » Thu Jan 30, 2014 9:17 am

JayDavidKing wrote:I'm late responding but...
So many of the entry examples that have been given are truly wonderful. I hope it's okay but I didn't use one of my challenge entries for this lesson. I picked one of my general entry stories for a reason. I want to know, Jan, who the real antagonist is in this one. It is either jealousy, the main character, or maybe even the innocent room mate who may have known all along what was happening. I would love it if all three were antagonists and there were no good guys at all... except for the poor guy at the end.

The story is "The Way to a Man's Heartburn". http://www.faithwriters.com/article-det ... p?id=78440


Fun story!

Letha is definitely the antagonist, and you've written her delightfully.
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Re: Be A Better Writer--ANTAGONISTS

Postby Cinnamon Bear » Thu Jan 30, 2014 11:13 am

"The Way To a Man's Heartburn" is just the best story! :lol:

I hope Letha comes up with something else to serve for supper. She's the antagonist but I wish her well. In her place I would be jealous too.

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